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Farms, Timber, Almost 900,000 Chickens Lost, USDA Loans Likely, Says Cochran

NOXAPATER, Miss.–Nearly 900,000 chickens were blown away in last week’s tornadoes. Farms, livestock, timber and many other agricultural resources ended up being lost. Now Sen. Thad Cochran says he’s gotten assurance that low interest loans will be available to you, if you suffered these losses.

Another big financial hit were the chicken houses.

In addition to other livestock losses, state officials also reported more than $14.3 million in timber damages on more than 22,000 acres of private forested areas primarily in Lee, Itawamba, Prentiss, Leake, Neshoba and Winston counties.

Cochran said in a news release Wednesday that he questioned Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack in a Senate committee meeting and that Vilsack committed USDA resources to the federal disaster recovery effort in Mississippi.

Agriculture and forestry-related damage assessments are still being compiled in the seven counties listed in the initial federal disaster declaration (Itawamba, Lee, Lowndes, Madison, Rankin, Wayne and Winston), as well as the five additional counties added on Tuesday (Jones, Leake, Montgomery, Simpson and Warren).  More than 20 tornadoes tore across the state on April 28, killing at least 14 Mississippians, said the release from Cochran’s camp.

“Mississippians are resolved to overcome the effects of the deadly tornadoes that caused so much awful damage in our state,” said Cochran.  “We are still in the cleanup and damage assessment mode, but with assistance from the USDA and other agencies we can repair the damage by the storms to our farm, livestock and forestry sectors.  I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s commitment to ensure that the USDA is actively involved in this process.”

A meeting has been arranged for today at 2 p.m. in Louisville, one of the hardest-hit areas, between Cochran’s staff, the Miss. State Univ. Extension Service and the USDA.

The following is from Cochran’s news release:

At Wednesday’s hearing, Cochran asked whether the USDA is prepared to offer assistance through the Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Programs authorized in the 2014 farm bill, including the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP).  The USDA Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) could also be used to address forestry-related losses.  For owners of land used in agricultural production, the Emergency Conservation Program could assist landowners with activities such as removing storm debris, rebuilding fences and restoring conservation structures.

Vilsack indicated that the USDA has implemented 2014 farm bill disaster programs and pledged the Department’s assistance in Mississippi’s recovery effort.

“We already have in place the programs, the resources are there, and folks are anxious to help,” Vilsack said.

“The Livestock Indemnity Program is really designed to provide assistance and help to those who have lost livestock as a result of disasters.  We certainly encourage the producers to make sure they have adequate records and we will be happy to work with them to process applications as quickly as possible,” said Vilsack, who also indicated the USDA resources are available to assist with livestock-related disposal.

For those who had livestock mortality losses, LIP is the primary program to assist poultry growers affected by the storm.  For those not eligible for LIP or had financial losses outside of livestock mortality, assistance might be available through the USDA’s Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybee and Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP) program.

Cochran, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, also indicated that he will work to determine whether the USDA’s Emergency Forest Restoration Program is sufficiently funded.  Permanently authorized in the 2008 Farm bill, EFRP is the principal federal disaster program for forest restoration and is subject to annual appropriations.

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